Sunday 16 December 2018

A 'culchie plan' or a 'capital plan' - does it really matter?

Stock photo
Stock photo
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

What's in a name? Surely, a rural plan by any other name would smell as sweet?

The Government is worried 'culchies' associate the much-hyped 10-year Capital Plan with… well, the capital.

As the political wedge between rural and urban grew this week, a decision has been taken to 'rethink' Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe's investment plan.

And instead of calling it a Capital Investment Plan, it will be now be referred as the National Development Plan (NDP) as research suggested people linked the word 'capital' with Dublin.

Under the umbrella of 'Project Ireland 2040', the plan will be launched along the National Planning Framework (NPF).

All of which will create a list of confusing acronyms - but what people really want to know, is what's in it for them.

They'll find out this day next week, but in the meantime we will be treated to a battle for the soul of Ireland between politicians of all shades.

Long before Leo Varadkar took over as Taoiseach, Mr Donohoe was working on an investment programme that should set Ireland up for the years ahead.

The aims are laudable. Money will be spread across the country in a targeted way to ensure that five main cities grow at a sustainable rate, while rural Ireland will be given a much needed post-recession injection.

But there will be no repetition of the mistakes of the past. This is not 'The Late Late Show' and there can't be something for everyone.

That is why the NDP and NPF have to be launched together. A bit like love and marriage, you can't have one without the other.

The NPF sets out the priority areas for housing, roads, schools and hospitals. The NDP pays for them.

With that in mind it's not surprising TDs from all over the country are shouting about why their area deserves a slice of the €115bn.

We already know the Cabinet has signed off on the M20 motorway from Limerick to Cork and an extended Dart line.

A second runway at Dublin Airport is in there, although the DAA will pay for that.

And a new hospital for Cork is on the cards.

Mr Varadkar loves good news and this is all good stuff. But the drawn-out build up to the launch has handed the Opposition time to rubbish the plans even before it sees them.

Name changes such as that imposed on ministers feeds the idea there's something wrong here.

Fianna Fáil's Éamon Ó Cuiv yesterday accused Mr Varadkar's government of a "panicked response" to "a nation that has begun calling it out in relation to the incompetence of the NPF draft, and its absolute indifference to the regions".

"The devil is going to be in the detail," he said.

Labour's Alan Kelly, who is also part of the 'Coalition Against the NPF', said he "demands a plan that drives the entire nation forward in a new and bold way, but what we've seen so far is lacking in courage and imagination and offers a patronising tip of the hat to the absolute necessity to re-calibrate the national economy".

Mr Kelly's input is interesting because this actually began during his time as environment minister before the ball was passed to Simon Coveney and now Eoghan Murphy.

Mr Coveney told the Dáil the "whole point is to plan for a very different type of Ireland to the one we have seen develop over the last 20 or 30 years in terms of where people live, how they move around and where industry and enterprise can grow and expand.

"We are talking about a plan that is big news for rural Ireland as well as one which is very strategic for cities and big towns."

It's not every week a government sets out plans for spending €115bn - so the name matters little. It will all be about the detail.

Irish Independent

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